HL Deb 13 March 1979 vol 399 cc492-4

2.43 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government when they propose to honour the undertaking given by Lord Wallace of Coslany on 17th January 1978 to provide information as to the cost to public funds of the appeal by ACAS to this House in the Grunwick case.


My Lords, I would remind the noble Lord that I wrote to him as recently as 12th February on this matter. I said then that I appreciated his concern that he had not received an answer to his question and that the reason for this was, as I understood from ACAS, that the question of costs was still before the Taxing Master and that as yet ACAS had not received a bill of costs. That remains the position. As I said in my reply on 17th January 1978, I will write to the noble Lord when the information is available.


My Lords, while I thank the noble Lord for that Answer and indicate the breathless anticipation with which I await further communication from him, may I ask whether his Answer means that ACAS have no idea now, 18 months since the dismissal of their appeal, what their persistence in this appeal has cost the British taxpayer, and also whether the private citizen successful in these proceedings has yet received his costs?


My Lords, I am unable to answer immediately the last part of the noble Lord's supplementary question. So far as ACAS is concerned, the whole matter rests with the Taxing Master. The Government have no influence or powers to deal with the Taxing Master. He must decide; and until that decision is reached we are unable to help the noble Lord. Heaven knows! I should be only too pleased to be able to give the noble Lord information on this matter, for I appreciate his anxiety.


My Lords, is the noble Lord in a position to say how much ACAS have earmarked in their reserves in anticipation of what the Taxing Master may decide?


My Lords, I cannot do that. We cannot direct ACAS, as we cannot direct the Taxing Master. Whether ACAS has put any money aside, I am not prepared to say. I do not know. Therefore, the noble Lord will have to think of some other supplementary question.


My Lords, may I help with that further supplementary question? Is the noble Lord quite right in saying that the Government cannot tell us a little more accurately the state of play over the taxation? Will he perhaps take the best advice available—the source of which is sitting now smiling at me on the Woolsack and, no doubt, wondering what led the noble Lord to be so ignorant of the matter?


My Lords, I shall be only too delighted to consult with the smiling adviser on my left, but that will have to be after Question Time. The noble and learned Lord would not expect me to give an immediate reply.